Friday, July 29, 2016

The Broken Mirror Part Four: The Moon Court Madman

This week we continue the story of the Talented Mr. Ripley, and the darkling's descent into corruption, and madness. When we last left him he was struggling with the discovery that murder came easy to him, and trying to reconcile his bloody deeds with the fact that the Moon Court had welcomed him with open arms. Of course, when you are praised for being a monster, you're likely to become even worse than you already were.

If you're not caught up yet, here's the full list of installments.

The Broken Mirror Part One: The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Broken Mirror Part Two: Through The Mirror Darkly
The Broken Mirror Part Three: The Dark Side of The Moon
The Broken Mirror Part Four: The Moon Court Madman
The Broken Mirror Part Five: Madness Comes Home to Roost

Ripley didn't remember who he was, or where he came from. His hands always seemed to know what to do, and the right words always came out of his mouth, but it was always a near thing. He had no personality, no desires... he was, quite simply, a dark reflection of whatever was near to him.All caught up? Lovely! Now then, where were we...

Broken Hearts, and Broken Faces

Some reflections are darker than others.
That began to change with his acceptance into the Moon Court. Doors started opening in his head, and fragments of the man he'd once been started oozing their way to the surface. He developed irrational hatreds of beautiful things, and took a special pleasure in the disgust of attractive women. He began carrying hidden blades, though he barely remembered secreting them on his person, and he took delight in stealing faces. Ruining the reputations of others became a treat for him, the way an awful child might pull the legs off a spider.

(As this was a LARP setting, I managed to convince one of the other players to get in on this joke with me. He went into the game in his own costume and makeup, playing Ripley masquerading as his character to ensure that no meta-knowledge from the other players ruined the scene. The confusion among those who were there to witness it was truly something to behold as the steadfast and stoic Eric Ymir flirted with other courtiers, drank half a bottle of whiskey, smashed the bottle across someone's face, then bolted from the room, laughing.)

That wasn't enough, though. Ripley had an itch he couldn't scratch. With all the faces he'd taken, he still didn't recognize his own. So he approached a Fall court Oracle, and begged her favor. She showed him who he'd been, and gave him the name he'd once carried. Tyler Glass, missing for a time as a sophomore, he was found wandering the road miles out of town, with no memory of where he'd been. That man, of course, wasn't Ripley. Ripley had been away. In a dark room with a queen who had caressed him when he pleased her, and smashed his face whenever he'd disappointed her. Until, in time, there was no one left behind those eyes. Just a malleable mirror, who could become anyone, and slip unnoticed into any place. A man who, one day, had simply winked out, like an evaporating puddle, and found himself back in a world he barely knew.

Gratitude, Madness, and Cannibalism

Ripley was grateful to the Oracle, and to the way she'd helped him. That was a thing that rarely happened. And, though he was stewing with unfocused rage that something else had been living his life, he also found himself changing. The role of the trickster, the deviant, the lunatic, had been one he'd played for so long that it had begun taking hold of him. Thick, black patches began erupting on his arms, spreading across his hands, turning him slowly but surely into something he didn't recognize. His tongue thickened, and lengthened, and the eyes that stared out at him from the mirror were going a hideous, awful red.

This is, really, the opposite of rose-colored glasses.
Something more important happened, though. Eric Ymir, the Summer courtier whom Ripley had played some of his best tricks on, vanished. Not just vanished, but had been murdered, and his body fed to a Fall courtier. Ripley was beside himself with fury. Not because he cared for Ymir, but because that was his toy. His life to ruin. And someone else took that from him. No one stole from him, and he was going to stick his blades into the killer until they saw the error of crossing paths with him.

Then he discovered the killer had been the very Oracle he held in such high regard.

That was when Ripley's already delicate psyche cracked, and schismed. She wouldn't do that... she helped him. She was good... but there was no doubt it had been her hand on the knife that had killed Ymir. Ripley couldn't reconcile these two things, but it was found that at the time of the murder, her clarity had been in tatters.

That was the answer, of course.

Jokes Falling Flat at The Funny Farm

In order to know why she had done what she'd done, Ripley snuck into a facility meant for the truly mad. Those afflicted with conditions that made them see what wasn't there, and hear words no one spoke. He delved into their dreams, plagued their realities, and sought the force of genuine Madness that threaded itself through them. Why? Well, he had a proposal for it.

He wanted Madness to come and dwell in him. To show him what the Oracle had seen, and to make him understand why she had hurt him so by breaking his favorite toy.

How did that go? Well, tune-in next time to find out, as we conclude the tale of the Talented Mr. Ripley!

Hopefully you're enjoying this latest multi-part tale on Table Talk. If you've got a story of your own to share, I'm always open to hearing them, and putting my readers in the spotlight. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! As little as $1 a month is a big help, and it gets you some sweet swag, too! Lastly, if you haven't done so yet, why not follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter?

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